RHA chief admits HGV drivers have been underpaid for a long time

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Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association, has admitted that lorry drivers in the UK “for a long time, have been underpaid". Burnett's comments, made on Sky News this morning, come after his colleague Rod McKenzie told Channel 4 in June that hauliers couldn't pay drivers more because their margins are too small.

RHA chief admits HGV drivers have been underpaid for a long time
Photo © Copyright David Dixon

As has been heavily reported, lorry drivers are currently being offered sign-on bonuses and better wages as companies compete to recruit HGV drivers from the country’s depleted driver pool. The driver shortage nonetheless remains an issue as it is estimated it will take 18 months for the government’s measures to have the desired effect.

Interestingly, for what appears to be the first time during the driver shortage crisis, RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett has admitted that lorry drivers in the UK “for a long time, have been underpaid”. The RHA’s Rod Mckenzie has also echoed his colleague’s comments on Twitter.

Burnett made the comments on Sky News after being asked about the incentives lorry drivers are currently being offered. Besides mentioning that lorry drivers have long been underpaid, he also stated that this is “part of the reason why we’ve got this challenge, this [driver shortage] problem”.

Although this may seem obvious to many of our readers, until now the RHA has maintained that the shortage has been caused by a lack of driver respect, poor and insufficient driver facilities , IR35, Brexit and coronavirus slowing down HGV driver testing. Virtually nothing had been said about pay until today.

Indeed, when asked by Channel 4 News in June why hauliers couldn’t just pay drivers more, Rod McKenzie, Managing Director of Policy & Public Affairs at the Road Haulage Association, had the following to say:

Logistics is a very low margin business – people make 1% or 2% profit a year. And that is a pretty scary number if you’re suddenly having to pay drivers a lot more.

Clearly, Burnett’s comments show that the RHA has changed its tune and now admits that poor pay is one of the factors that has influenced the driver shortage crisis.

However, Burnett also claimed on Sky News today that the sign-on bonuses being offered by major supermarkets are “exacerbating the problem” as the cash incentives will simply move drivers from hauliers to supermarkets:

I think for a long time, lorry drivers have been underpaid. And it’s part of the reason why we’ve got this challenge, this problem. So increasing payments for retailers and manufacturers and higher rates in order for us to be able to pay drivers decent living wage, but I think part of the problem at the moment is the sign-on bonuses are actually moving, drivers around the market, moving drivers away from hauliers who are delivering into supermarkets and the supermarkets are attracting those drivers away. And that’s exacerbating the problem. And that could have a further impact in terms of our ability to get product from the manufacturers into the food retailers as well.

Photo © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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